Saturday, 11 June 2011

Wet Wet Wet

The Americans have an adjective which is used to describe mundane objects such as socks or coffee - Awesome.  "Awesome socks dude" or "This framazapacinno is awesome!".  Well, the framazapathingy (even with sprinkles) probably isn't actually something which inspires awe. At best it's a nice hot drink.

However, Niagara Falls IS awesome.

The Niagara River connects two of the "Great Lakes" (note, not the "Awesome Lakes", just "Great"), Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and it divides the US and Canada.  About half way between those two lakes, the river has eroded a step in the rocks - quite a big step.  There are a number of islands in the river and two of these, Luna Island and Goat Island cause the upper part of the river to split into three, just before it crashes over the edge. So there are three "falls", the smallest, Bridal Falls is in the middle, with the American Falls next to it, and further along on the other side of Goat Island is the largest, the Horseshoe Falls.

The American, Bridal and (in the distance) Horseshoe Falls

From the park on Goat Island you can get very close to the river as it drops over the edge (almost within touching distance) and the noise, the spray and the feeling of power is - well, awesome.

However, to really appreciate the power of the falls we had to do two things. First, The Maid of the Mist is a boat trip which takes you past the American and Bridal Falls and on into the middle of the Horseshoe Falls. When you buy your tickets you are issued with big blue plastic rain capes, mine seems supersized - it's a Big Mac!

These are completely necessary. We're on the top deck along with many others, and as we approach the heart of the Horseshoe, it's like someone has taken a jetwash and turned it on us.

The Maid of the Mist in the eye of the storm
I've enjoyed many wet weekends in North Wales but I've never seen so many grinning faces simply because they're getting very wet. Justine has thought ahead and is wearing a pair of plastic pumps, but I've not been quite so clever and my Converse Baseball Boots are not the most waterproof footwear I own - they're starting to fill up with water! Still, at least the rest of me is reasonably dry and as I narrowly avoid joining a very friendly American Bachelor Party, we leave the boat - everyone still grinning.

From the jetty, some wooden steps allow you to get part of the way up the cliff beside the curtain of water and, again, the rain capes earn their keep as we get soaked by the spray and the mist. This feels a lot like the other attraction we were intending to try, The Cave Of The Winds, and we're tempted to give that a miss as it feels like we've already got as close and as as wet as is possible.

But The Cave Of The Winds is only another $11 each and we'll probably never come here again. So, we're issued with another rain cape, yellow this time and significantly shorter - this one only comes down to my knees. I guess we're not going to get as wet on this one, right? We also get a pair of stylish plastic sandals, which is a good thing for me as my feet now feel like they're encased in custard and I'm making embarrassing squelches with every step I take. So I put on my sandals and, just in case, I wear both my capes - the long blue one underneath and the nice yellow one on top. With my long flowing two-piece robes and my plastic sandals I feel like "Polythene Jesus", and I'm getting some envious looks from some of the style gurus around here.

We climb the steps up past the Bridal Veils Falls and head towards the "Hurricane Deck". It's like someone is firing golf ball-sized hailstones at you. Most people are backing into the spray as it lashes into their backs, shrieking and laughing.

Me on the Hurricane Deck - Observing the "No Smoking" sign!
An Indian man who I've never set eyes on before, smiles at me, slaps me on the back and shouts something in my ear, but I can't hear a word. Everyone is getting soaked and everyone's faces are beaming. If you want world peace, organise a coach trip from the UN, kit the world's leaders out in big blue rain macs and send them up to the Hurricane Deck... sorted. Oh, and tell them not to wear "sneakers" - mine still haven't dried out!

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